How to improve programming problem-solving skills

programming problem solving skills

From a young age, our brains develop to the world around us, the environment we live in, and the people who we interact with. The brain thinks about road-blocks and problems we have and how we can possibly overcome these situations. It tries many things until the problem is solved or your run out of energy trying to solve it. Being a good problem solver isn’t something that people have an innate ability to do, rather it is something that is studied, learned, and analyzed, which makes it much more desirable to have problem solving skills in programming.

Programming anything is tedious because most of it requires perfect accuracy and a dedicated individual. As we have grown to understand, nothing is 100% perfect 100% of the time, which leaves room for human error. Plenty of software engineers are finding ways to analyze problems so that they can solve them in an efficient manner, but where do you begin? There are too many avenues that people take to solve problems, but here are a few essential skills on how to improve program problem solving skills 

Understand how your brain works

Everyone processes information differently, so knowing how you interpret and analyze information is the first them to improving your problem-solving programming skills. For example, some people learn to solve problems through trial and error, they can see first hand what went wrong. Others may learn better by reading copious amounts of books and texts related to the problem or programming language and then approaching it. Different data structures require different ways of thinking, so f find what is best for you and build upon that. 

Your brain also develops differently and doing diverse things might increase brain activity and allow you to reach your potential. Playing chess or sudoku can help with logical skills, where as doing physical exercise gives your brain oxygen can train your body and mind to work in tandem.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

One thing that separates the good from the great is that the latter works more and works harder. Practice makes perfect, and practicing your programming skills will pay off in the end. Using an open source code will allow you to practice different problem solving skills as well. 

HackerRank and LeetCode are some examples of websites you can practice your coding skills on. With these tools, practicing will seem less tedious and a bit more comprehensive than just working on your own personal projects. 

The more you are exposed to different problems, the easier the solutions will come to you. 

Read more, learn more.

Programming requires lots of reading texts about languages and techniques, as those are the best ways to learn and understand the topic at hand. Reading exposes you to all the nuances of a language or a problem-solving tactic and allows you to explore those ideas more freely. 

Its important to care about data structures and algorithms because they are the key to most of the problems. Reading about different kinds of data structures can help you identify and conceptualize problems. Knowing different algorithms can build your repertoire and expand your utility box. Researching other people’s codes and what worked and what didn’t may also be useful for you moving forward.  

These are some things that programmers forget to do after they’ve graduated, but it’s actually one of the more important to keep up with. You’ll be up to date on the latest and greatest and also keep your mind sharp. 

Once you’ve equipped yourself with these skills – you can start moving towards how you can start problem-solving better. Just like any programming language, you build upon the foundation of your knowledge. Then you use that knowledge to carefully and efficiently solve a problem 

problems with code

Understand the problem at hand 

Trying to solve a problem that you don’t understand will cause more problems than solving them. So try and understand the root of it, before approaching it. 

Is it a multithreading problem? Maybe all the input is in complete chaos and you need to sort it out manually. You’ll have to go through stacks or registers to find the exact problem because multithreading could have unexpected results and leave you with no idea what to do. 

Could it be that the problem lies within a limited amount of RAM, thus not allowing a program to function properly? Memory management might be your solution to this problem. Swapping may be a fix for now, to make space for other processes. 

Edge cases are also common problems that have complicated answers. Moving from one end of the spectrum to another can be tedious. 

No 1 problem is the same as another, so manage to analyze the root and work from there. 

Design Patterns 

Design patterns are a way to take a step back and look at the entirety of code, and analyze each different working part. Programmers can reproduce parts of a code found in the design pattern to troubleshoot problems and understand things like the structure and how each line is related. 

Each pattern is responsible for different functions, allowing you to see how its working or not working and where it begins. There are patterns that provide mechanisms for creation, structure, and behavior that is more specific in use. They are reproduced in several different contexts which allows for better, more efficient solutions. 

For example, a factory method’s intent is to develop a system or interface for creating objects in a superclass, or a place where other subclasses inherit code from. The factory method goes further and allows subclasses to modify and change these objects along the way.

But this runs into a problem when you have to modify and change your code due to complications that change the programs behaviour, things like high volume use or input. 

Knowing how it works, you can see what objects you can replace to suit your needs and allow your factory method to still function.

There are plenty of design patterns that are implemented into code that can be used as a toolkit when solving programming problems. These can teach you how to approach certain problems and is a language common enough for you and colleagues to communicate better.

Plan and Evaluate 

When it comes to solving problems, some just dive right into it and try different things without analyzing first. Planning your method of problem solving will give you further insight as to why something went wrong. Writing your exact steps breaks down the solution and helps pinpoint and find the problem. This is important in problems like debugging, so that you know why its giving you a different output than intended. 

Not only does this help you understand the problem, it will also help you learn more. It can introduce new and innovative ways to solve them. 

During the planning stage you can also evaluate all the steps and whether they are recommended or not. Knowing the conditions and the parameters and planning ahead may save you some time in the long run.

Divide and Execute 

Isolate certain aspects or problems that you come across and take it slowly. Understand and solve bits and pieces until the whole thing has been solved. It’s difficult to solve them all at once, but those sub-problems can be dealt with on an easier scale. Once the sub-problems are solved, connect the dots and make everything make sense together. Programmers and engineers forget how to approach large problems, so break it down, before the problem breaks you down. 

If you get stuck, which is totally normal, go backwards and break it down to see where it went wrong. Maybe the input you gave was incorrect, so figure out what you actually commanded and what you intended to command and compare it. If you’re still stuck, reassess and reevaluate so things make sense again, and try from there. 


Learning how to solve problems isn’t the main goal of programming or computing science (unless you’re a debugger) but rather the focus is on preventing these problems from occurring. That isn’t to say that everything will be 100% perfect, that is almost never the case. Through a special skill set and a procedure for approaching problems, your troubleshooting and problem-solving skills will definitely improve while also rounding out all other skills you have. The road doesn’t end here, there will always be room for improvement. 

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